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CHOICE takes fire definition fight to Treasurer

Maja Garaca Djurdjevic
Maja Garaca Djurdjevic
26 February 2020 1 minute readShare

Consumer group CHOICE has called on the Treasurer to implement a standard definition for natural disaster, with an increasing number of bushfire victims reporting they are baffled by red tape in their insurance contracts.

Following a CHOICE analysis that found serious problems with the definition of “fire” in major home and contents insurance policies, CHOICE CEO Alan Kirkland is in Canberra on behalf of over 35,000 Australians asking for fair insurance contracts.

In delivering a petition to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s office, Mr Kirkland will argue the case for standard definitions in insurance contracts, as previously recommended by a 2017 Senate inquiry and the ACCC as recently as December 2019.

“People take out insurance for peace of mind — the confidence that they’ll be looked after if something goes wrong,” Mr Kirkland said.

“That’s particularly important for people living in bushfire-affected communities. The last thing somebody who has been through a bushfire needs to worry about is whether their insurance claim will be knocked back due to a tricky term or condition.”

Against the backdrop of the catastrophic summer fires, Mr Kirkland is proposing a simple solution: a standard approach across the industry that ensures that all damage resulting from a bushfire is covered.

“Just as the government had to intervene to force the industry to adopt a standard definition of flood, our analysis shows that it’s time to do the same thing for fire cover.”

CHOICE is recommending the government model reform based off of the successful introduction of a standard flood definition in 2012.

Definition of fire

According to CHOICE experts, who sifted through 26 product disclosure statements, AAMI, APIA and GIO all have “confusing exclusions” when it comes to defining the word “fire”.

“If heat from a passing bushfire affects parts of your building or contents but doesn’t ignite a burning building within 10 metres, you won’t be covered,” CHOICE said.

According to the consumer group, with Coles insurance, flames have to be present for your cover to kick in, while Youi doesn’t cover scorching, melting or smouldering unless there are flames.

Budget Direct, Virgin Money and ING won’t cover for “smoke or soot when no damage from fire has occurred”, while QBE “won’t cover damage caused by charring, melting or scorching as a result of fire without the presence of flames”.

“That’s what people think they are getting when they pay their premiums,” Mr Kirkland concluded.

CHOICE takes fire definition fight to Treasurer
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Maja Garaca Djurdjevic
Maja Garaca Djurdjevic

Maja Garaca Djurdjevic is the editor of My Business. 

Maja has a decade-long career in journalism across finance, business and politics. Now a well-versed reporter in the SME and accounting arena, prior to joining Momentum Media, Maja reported for several established news outlets in Southeast Europe, scrutinising key processes in post-conflict societies and enabling citizens to influence decision-making.

You can email Maja on [email protected] 

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